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5 Tips to Start Building a Solid Internship Program

Written by Angela Finding

Are you thinking of hiring interns? You can’t just post a job ad and hope for the best. It’s in your best interest to develop an entire internship program, which you can use to hire multiple interns in the future; having a formal system will ensure that your needs are met, your interns gain valuable experience, and you adhere to all legal and formal requirements throughout your internships.

If you have little to no experience hiring and managing interns for your business, this may be intimidating. However, building an internship program is easier than you might think. Start with these five important steps:

  1. Consider what you can offer. Internships should exist to benefit the intern, especially if they’re being unpaid (though we recommend paying all your interns). What skills will they learn? What environments will they be exposed to? What new connections will they make? The more you can offer, the better talent you’re going to attract.
  2. Consider what you can gain. What are you hoping to get out of your interns? About 71 percent of employers hire interns with the intention of scouting full-time talent, but you might also be looking to give back to the community, or to gain short-term help for a big project or initiative. Think carefully about your goals, and how you can achieve them.
  3. Create an ideal position. With those criteria in mind, work on developing descriptions for your potential intern positions. What will be their key responsibilities? What will be their main objectives and goals?
  4. Establish training and evaluation policies. Next, find someone (or more than one person) in the office who can train your intern, and develop a formally documented training program. Along similar lines, you should create an evaluation program, which you’ll use at the end of the internship (or throughout) to provide your candidate with meaningful feedback.
  5. Commit to gaining feedback. Speaking of feedback, you’ll need a system to receive feedback as well. Listen to your interns and discover what you can do better for the next round of candidates who apply for your open positions.

Someday, you might scale to the levels of Disney, hiring 12,000 interns a year, but even if you’re only looking for one new intern each summer, it pays to have a program in place. These tips will help you ensure that you start out with the best possible foundation, and improve it over time.

Be sure to check out our Internship Guidebook for employers!

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